dbn Lighting illuminates Hull Freedom Festival

UK: Manchester-based dbn Lighting recently designed and supplied lighting equipment to two innovative site-specific shows in Hull, created by outdoor arts and performance specialists Walk The Plank in their role as artistic directors of Hull Freedom Festival – a diverse mix of arts, music and cultural events staged over three days in and around the city of Hull.

dbn is a regular collaborator with Walk The Plank, known for their ‘out-of-the-box’ approach and imaginative, eye-catching public art presentations which challenge, engage and appeal to wide and diverse audiences.

dbn’s Stephen Page and Nick Walton lit the two one-off shows which formed two of the main spectacular set pieces for the festival.

Using the River Hull as the narrator, this opening night spectacular took place along its banks in between the Scale Lane Swing Bridge and Myton A63 Road Bridge which is about 120 metres south.

The award-winning Scale Lane Swing Bridge was designed by architects McDowell & Beneditti and opened in 2013, linking Scale Lane and Tower Street and forging a path between the city’s historic old town and The Deep. It is the only moving bridge in the UK where people can stay on it while it swings.

The Myton Bridge was opened in 1981 and is an asymmetric cable stayed box girder steel swing bridge on the A63 (Garrison Road), with spans of 55.5 x 28.5m.

Directed by Nick Clarke and produced by Ellie Turner for Walk The Plank, the dramatic action included a boat moving up and down the river with one of the main characters on-board standing on a tower, and Hull’s own Freedom Chorus choir performing on the bridge.

The work took the audience back to the days when Hull was built as a port to distribute wool from across Yorkshire as ransom for Richard The Lionheart.

Stephen called on his wealth of experience at lighting large scale outdoor events. He had a vast space and many specific areas to light including the two bridges, assorted buildings, the choir and the actors.

Scale Lane Bridge was illuminated with five Clay Paky Sharpies and five Sharpie Washes helping to establish the ‘voice of the river’ through the medium of light. The voice appeared during the narrated elements of the especially composed soundtrack by Graeme Stewart.

Additional bridge lighting came in the form of Spectral LED PARs plus around 500 fairy lights which brought a magical glow to the space.

To light the river and the relevant surrounding buildings, Stephen utilised four of dbn’s brand new high powered Studio Due RGBW CityColor LED FCs – the latest ones – their intensity and excellent quality of light proving perfect for the application.

He also deployed four CP Mythos and 10 x Alpha Beam 700s in dbn custom weather domes either side of the river bank, together with some Atomic strobes, with the data signal to the far side beamed via WDMX wireless links – essential as both bridges opened during the show (power was provided on both sides of the river).
CP GlowUp battery powered LED uplighters on the boat were also controlled via WDMX.

Stephen ran all the lighting using a Jands Vista S3 console located on the east side of the river using a combination of time-coded and manually executed cues.
His big creative challenge was lighting up the black Scale Lane Bridge, but the new CityColors were so powerful that they handled it with ease.

Programming time was also restricted on site as the area is heavily residential, however Stephen was able to do a good portion of this beforehand using WYSIWYG previsualisation.

He worked onsite with two dbn crew – Moss Everhard and Andy Pole – getting in on Wednesday for the Friday performance.

Across town, on a piece of wasteland near Hull’s docks, on the Saturday night of the Freedom Festival, dbn’s Nick Walton took up position behind the Avo Pearl Expert console being operated by Mike Durgan for the incendiary “Over and Out”, designed by WTP’s pyro expert Pete Finnigan to demonstrate the power and beauty of fire.

Based around a scenic 12 metre tall lighthouse, the show featured three key actors plus local volunteers and was directed by Carrie English for Walk The Plank, complete with a special soundtrack created by Pablo.

Nick had actually lit the show before in Newcastle when it was part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. This time it was specially adapted for the new space in Hull.
In this instance, the role of lighting was to incorporate the structure and highlight the actors who work on three different levels of the lighthouse as well as across the floor immediately around it.

The primary factor in choosing equipment was that it had to be durable and “As resistant as possible to fire and heat and all the hot debris and fall out from the pyro,” recalled Nick, admitting that a few pieces of kit had in fact been incinerated in 2012.

The next challenge for the lighting was to ensure it was visible amidst the intense power and onslaught of the fire effects.

To achieve this, eight i-Pix BB4 LED binders were secured to the tower and 100 metres of egg-strobes were draped up and down it.

Eight Studio Due ArchiLED 150 outdoor PARs were positioned on the floor in front – chosen for their tight beam and durability in adverse weather – the second environmental consideration, and a further 24 generic flood fixtures also on the floor were used to light the actors from different angles.

Further away, to create some massive washes sweeping across the performance area, Nick used four more of dbn’s stock of the new RGBW CityColor LED FCs which were more than enough to blast the space and tower with lumens.

Behind the tower at a safe distance was a bank of 12 x Clay Paky Sharpies to give super-sharp, definitive beams of light piercing up into the night sky. They were joined in this position by a pair of Griven Sky Rose 2.5K discharge beam fixtures which panned around adding some additional interest.

At the same position from the front were four CP Alpha Spot 575s, used to apply texturing to the structure.

Nick and Mike were joined on the crew by Stefan Ospafijczuk.

“It was a hugely enjoyable show,” commented Nick. Everyone had a great time rigging and running it and the audience was fully captivated by experiencing the compelling – and dangerous – ephemeral nature of fire.”

Header photo credit: Tom Arran